The health of your teeth, gums, and mouth is connected to the overall health of your body. Researchers have found a connection between poor oral health and a number of serious physical conditions including diabetes and heart disease. The connection between your oral health and physical health is one that you may have heard about before. But, you may be surprised to learn about the most recent connection researchers have found-the link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s.
Periodontal disease describes a condition that includes infection of the gums and can lead to soft tissue and bone damage inside the mouth. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease with devastating symptoms that include memory loss, impaired thinking, disorientation, and changes in personality. When you look at the definitions of these two conditions side by side they seem completely unrelated. How can an infection in your mouth potentially impact a disease related to mental decline?
The science behind the study of Alzheimer’s is complicated because it is a complicated disease. But, when you are aiming to understand the possible connection between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s there are just a few basic points you need to know.
Here is the big picture view of the research suggesting a link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s.
- Recent research on the brains of people who had Alzheimer’s found a pathogen that is also present in the mouths of people with chronic periodontitis. This finding suggests a possible connection between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s.
- A longitudinal (over a period of time) study found that as more teeth are lost the risk of cognitive decline may increase.
- There is a correlation between cognitive decline and periodontal disease. This correlation suggests a possible link between the two.
- A link may have been established between oral bacteria and chronic inflammation. More and more research is suggesting a possible link between inflammation and the occurrence of Alzheimer’s.
There is still much more research that needs to be done on this topic to truly understand the potential link between these two seemingly unrelated conditions. But, the current research is exciting because it suggests that proper oral care may have an impact on your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
This is a brief description of a very complicated topic. But, the implications are clear. You may risk much more than oral pain and tooth loss when you neglect your oral care. Both your physical and mental health are potentially at risk if you develop and fail to treat periodontal disease. The good news is that periodontal disease is usually preventable with proper daily oral care, healthy lifestyle choices, and regular dental visits. If you think you already have the beginnings of periodontal disease the sooner you seek help the easier it will be to treat. The type of treatment you need will depend on the specifics of your situation. There are non-surgical and surgical options for treating periodontal disease. You will work closely with your dentist to decide which type of treatment best meets your needs. Do not risk developing the problems that have been linked to periodontal disease-schedule an appointment today.
Peter J Samuels DDS is a local Gettysburg dentist and a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.